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In a study released in 2015, U.S. researchers found that social isolation and living alone increase mortality risk by 29 percent and 32 percent, respectively, which means even those who say they are alone and happy are at increased risk. The takeaway? Don't be afraid to brave the weekend crowds from time to time. It could extend your life.
Four tips for making new connections
1. Build social contact into every day
Make regular social commitments: scheduling a biweekly lunch with a friend, participating in a sport, signing up for a class or volunteering. "Going to the same place at the same time every week ensures you'll find other people doing exactly the same thing," says Montreal psychologist Dr. Susan Pinker. "Soon enough, they'll be part of your village."
2. Use technology to be social, not antisocial
We're increasingly using our personal devices to communicate without leaving the house. Texting and messaging, as well as dating apps like Tinder, make us virtually invisible. "Use your digital devices to make plans to see people for genuine social interaction," says Dr. Pinker. "Don't use your devices to replace face-to-face contact, or you will feel lonelier than you did before."
3. Have reasonable expectations
Seeking new connections and friendships is a great strategy, but University of Chicago psychology professor John T. Cacioppo recommends taking it slow. "Don't focus on finding the love of your life or reinventing yourself all at once," he says. Volunteer activities, such as helping out at an animal shelter or coaching a kids" soccer team, will elicit the most positive outcome. "You may begin to feel positive sensations that can reinforce your desire to change while also building confidence."
4. Don't overextend yourself
"Committing to doing too many things for too many people in an effort to open ourselves up to connection can make us feel overworked and stressed out," says Cacioppo. "The whole point is to be available to the common bond of humanity." Have a realistic perception of how much you can take on along with your other daily commitments.
Looking for some fun friend meet ups? Check out these 8 fun things do with your friends.
This story was originally part of "Back in Touch" in the May 2016 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!